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What's next for Blackhawks after quiet 2024 NHL trade deadline?

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WASHINGTON — The NHL trade deadline came and went on Friday, and the Chicago Blackhawks made only one move: Anthony Beauvillier was dealt to Nashville for a fifth-round pick in 2024.

The Blackhawks were probably hoping to stockpile more future assets but the re-signings of Jason Dickinson, Nick Foligno and Petr Mrazek made that a little tougher to do. They were also expected to trade Corey Perry at the deadline but his contract was terminated in November.

The options on who the Blackhawks could have traded became pretty limited.

"I just thought there would be a little more action on our end, but it was quieter, which is fine," Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson said. "We're happy with the group we have moving through the deadline. I wasn't like dead-set on trying to make other moves. If it happened, it happened, and it didn't."

With the deadline in the rearview mirror, Davidson is now shifting his attention to the 2024 NHL Draft. College and junior playoffs are right around the corner, and that's a crucial evaluation period for scouts and executives.

"That’s definitely going to take up a lot of the focus now," Davidson said. "That, along with tracking some of the prospects down the stretch and see how they’re doing, where we might want to have them play, whether it’s to end this year or to play next year. Those kind of conversations are going to really heat up and start to be had. Between draft prep and then those prospect conversations, that’s definitely going to be a shift in focus."

Beyond that, it seems like fans are wondering what free agency could look like this summer. Of the 20 players on their active roster as of this writing, only nine of them are under contract for next year.

The depth of the Blackhawks' roster could look different next season, but don't expect them to start handing out longer-term deals. They're not at that point yet in their trajectory.

"You have to get to that point to see who’s available, first of all,” Davidson said. “The thing about a lot of these, whether it’s free agency or what have you, if you’re looking long term at some pretty good players, normally their teams do everything they can to lock them up and there’s still a considerable amount of time to do that. I don’t know if we’ll be in the long-term game. We’ll kind of evaluate that when we get there and see where we’re at in a couple of months.

"But as we did last year and maybe more so this year, we’ll look to probably explore free agency and see. It’s all about what’s there, too, right? We can sit here today and the free-agent list looks like this [long] and you get there and it’s much more minimal. So, it’s kind of a situation that’s lacking some information right now, so we’ll see who’s available in free agency and go from there. 

"But it’s something we’re willing to explore and kind of dip into if it’s advantageous to us. But we also have to be mindful of where we are in this process as well and not do anything to harm the long term.”

Having said that, Davidson wants to make sure he's surrounding Connor Bedard and his younger players with a quality supporting cast while the Blackhawks try to get through the current phase of the rebuild. That's part of the equation, too.

Davidson will look to accomplish that task responsibly so it doesn't come at the cost of affecting the financial picture down the road. The Blackhawks have a boatload of cap space, and they're going to be strategic on how they utilize it.

"Yeah, it’s definitely a balance you have to strike, right?" Davidson said. "And you’re always weighing that with everything you do. I’m really happy with what we’ve been able to do to give ourselves the freedom financially to have that be an option to us, where we can go out, whether it be trade or signing, whatever situation you may look at, we have the cap room and cap flexibility to do that but with the understanding that that flexibility goes away quickly and making sure when we do jump into something or commit to something long-term, that this does make sense all the way through. Especially with where we’re at.

"You don’t want to make a jump too soon and then limit your ceiling on what you can be or sign something too early and then want to try and move it later on. We just want to be careful of how we spend our money because it’s a really hard thing to get that flexibility in this league once you don’t have it anymore. So we’ll be reluctant to give that up until it really makes sense."

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